Tag Archives: Opinion

My review of James Rickards ‘The Death of Money’…

As a writer of science-fiction stories, along with atheist comedies, I have a keen interest in the shape of the future and in the changes that appear to be coming to our world very soon. Things like the creation of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), the loss of jobs due to automation and driverless cars that are being rapidly developed and thus the need for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to offset the loss of these jobs, as well as the impact of humans on our world interests me. I read books like Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/grg36v8) to inform me of what is to come and how I can incorporate it into my writings but also because I have a genuine interest in this subject and ‘The Death of Money: the coming collapse of the international monetary system’ by James Rickards fits squarely into that category.

This book details some of the events that the author thinks are likely to occur and that will shape our world and society during the coming decades, most notably a collapse of the US dollar, but Rickards also covers many other topics including the rise of China, along with the expected fall of that country’s economy, the use of gold by Central banks, and the manipulation of the markets by terrorists among other things. One of the implications that intrigued me most was the way in which countries like the US manipulate their own interest rates to pass inflation onto other nations, something that strikes me as deceptive but, given the number of ways that the US maintains its dominance of the world, this is actually pretty tame. And given that we have been living in a period of exceptionally low interest rates, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale, also not the biggest issue we face.

 

This book was published in 2014 and the signs that Rickards thesis is correct continue to mount. Recently, several Chinese companies were downgraded by Moody’s leading to fears of a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/24/china-credit-rating-downgraded-moodys-debt). The UK housing bubble and economy looks set to collapse should we actually go through with the whole Brexit debacle. And the effect of having Donald Trump as US president, and all of the insanity that appears on a daily basis, are yet to really be seen and felt. I was convinced before reading this book that we were heading for a financial meltdown and now I am even more certain that this will happen in the near future.

 

Rickards wonders how much longer the dollar will be the reserve currency, not long by the sounds of it, and then the impact on the US will surely be felt. I’m also very curious to see what the resultant fallout will be with the author airing a cautious note in the last few pages about the possibility of America turning into a fascist state with its militarised police, surveillance mechanisms and easily controllable road network. The UK is comparable to the US is a great many ways but personally I am grateful that we have not followed them in adding SWAT teams, drones and APCs to our police forces. And with Donald Trump now in the White House that possibility seems ever more realistic.

 

My feeling is that we are indeed heading for a financial meltdown and that the world that needs to follow it, one where neo-liberalism is no longer the driving force of our economy, AI runs much of our world, UBI is implemented along with shorter weeks, and we put the emphasis on sustainability in a finite world is one possible outcome. Unfortunately, there are other, far more scary outcomes too and there seems to be no way of knowing exactly where we are heading. We shall just have to see. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

My wife and I are going vegetarian by stealth…

Since beginning a weekly Riverford vegetable box scheme my wife and I seem to be gradually going vegetarian which came as something of a surprise. We have been heading that way for a while but it is not something that I actually expected to happen having eaten meat all my life. I have previously written about the wonder of Riverford here: http://tinyurl.com/j58aep6 and if you have any interest in lovely, organic vegetables grown without the use of pesticides and eating seasonal produce that reconnects you with the changing year then I can’t recommend them enough. The interesting thing for me is that we haven’t made a choice to stop eating meat, our diet has changed without us really thinking about it, and now that it has it feels like it is for the better and I am glad that we have. We even bought a Riverford meat box to enjoy their organic, free-range produce but even that has lost some of its appeal and has sat in our freezer for many months.

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During this period our diet has become more varied, we are eating more beans, pulses and grains along with our veggies, we cook a significantly wider range of meals (including tofu, something I had previously dismissed) and we have rapidly reached the point where the thought of eating meat is much less appealing than it used to be. Another driver of this change is my wife’s fondness for the Minimalist Baker blog (http://minimalistbaker.com/) and the subsequent purchase of the author’s cookbook and many times when we need a recipe, an internet search leads us to her blog and the meal that we end up cooking. So far, they have been universally excellent and I recommend it as a source of useful recipes.

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We still do eat meat and I think this will continue for a while but the idea that it is required for a satisfying meal has also become odd. We cook the occasional roast chicken or a slow roasted joint and duck gumbo remains our favourite dish but then we began to lose our taste for bacon and, yes, I am aware that many say that they could never give up bacon, that is the one thing that keeps them carnivorous. We use a little for cooking quiches or to top pizzas, but I can now see a day when we won’t even eat that. Brunch now consists of eggs, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, and toast with sausages also having been dropped from our diet.

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Going vegetarian is not only good for you but it is also, in my experience, cheaper and it leads to a more varied diet. It is good for the environment and if you try to buy only organic meat and dairy, like we do, then it is good for the health of the animals involved. You are also contributing less to the varied crises that we face from the intensive farming of animals including the huge production of CO2 that this industry requires, the overuse of antibiotics in industrial farming and the destruction of natural habitats for the grain required to feed them. All in all it is a very good thing and getting away from the idea that it needs to be a choice you make to do all of these things is also good.

 

Currently, my wife and I are not fully vegetarian, and we don’t we ever actually intend to be, but eating meat is already something that we indulge in much less and it may be that we never make that choice but that it happens anyway. Eating meat may be something that we only do when we are in a restaurant or at a party where there is little choice. Actually, eating out has become more difficult due to the paucity of choices for vegetarians with often only one option on the menu. Oh, and it has also been suggested to me that I go vegan but I can never see that happening for my love of cheese is far too strong. I know that you can get vegan alternatives but the loss of all of the cheeses I love would simply be too much, I think. We shall see.

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Paul Dempsey’s recent London gig…

A few nights ago my wife and I saw Paul Dempsey in concert and I have to say that it was the best gig I have seen in years and probably one of the best that I have ever attended. Yes, it really was that good. For those of you not in the know, Dempsey is the lead singer of Something for Kate’, a band from Australia who I have been a fan of for many years ever since first listening to ‘The Official Fiction’ and enjoying it. It is the opinion of this reviewer that SfK are a band, unlike a long list of others whom I have previously enjoyed, that has only gotten better as the years have passed and they have made more music. ‘Desert Lights’ was a favourite of mine for many years, it is excellent and it was only replaced in my affections by the subsequent album, ‘Leave Your Soul to Science’, though that one took more listens for me to warm to. And since then the latest has been in my regular rotation of albums.

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In addition to his work with SfK, Dempsey has also been building himself a solo career. He released  a collection of acoustic covers in 2013 with ‘Shotgun Karaoke that was then followed by ‘Everything is True’ in 2014 and standout tracks include ‘Fast Friends’, ‘Theme from Nice Guy’ and ‘Ramona Was a Waitress’. In 2017 came ‘Strange Loop’ (cover above), the superb latest album, and one that has been on hard rotation on both my wife and my mp3 players, as well as on our home stereo. Our favourites from this album include the title track, ‘Morningless’, ‘Hey History (Don’t Go Changing)’ and ‘Volunteers’. When we heard that he would be extending his European tour with a date added in London and one in Dublin we were first in line to grab the tickets.

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My wife and I have seen some gigs over the years that were excellent but only a few. Powderfinger, another Aussie rock staple, at the Birmingham Academy was truly something special partly due to the fact that they usually fill stadia back in Oz and we were in the second row and partly down to Bernard Fanning and the band being consummate performers. That gig was incredible and I am hopefully that Fanning will return to the UK at some point during his impressive solo career. Red Sky July are always excellent (my review here: https://tinyurl.com/lpak4vx) and another standout was Ben Folds. Seeing SfK is a dream that I have had for many years now, though I have always been realistic that this probably won’t happen, but Paul Dempsey provided the next best thing by playing an impressive one hour and forty five minute set that spanned all of his solo work and a few well-known SfK songs.

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Dempsey played the gig without any backing so it was just him and a guitar on stage. And he absolutely stormed it, giving an impressive performance while visibly being tired from his time on the road. Standout tracks of the night included ‘Strange Loop’ and ‘Morningless’ (at least for me, anyway) and the SfK classics ‘Déjà vu’ and ‘Monsters’. I wasn’t even sure that Dempsey would even play any SfK songs but ‘Déjà vu’ really brought the house down and I am ever more hopeful that he might bring the band back for a European tour in the near future. My wife and I will happily see Dempsey again any chance we get, hopefully soon, and interestingly enough neither of us have wanted to stop listening to his solo albums following the excellent gig. And if SfK do come London I just need them to play ‘Deep Sea Divers’, one of the most achingly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, then I truly will be happy. Here’s hoping!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My atheist comedy has been offered a review by a Catholic blogger…is this good?

So, every now and then in the life of a self-published, independent author like myself something interesting happens. It could be getting your first great review, as recently happened to a friend of mine and fellow indie author Rachel Shaw (she’s the writer of a fantasy novel called ‘The Raveller’s Guild’, http://tinyurl.com/kqxnrhu), or it could be going on a podcast and talking to people about your book or maybe starting up your own blog up and finding things to talk about that you hope your audience will enjoy. For me recently it was being offered a review, something that seems to be increasingly difficult to get due to the ever increasing number of indy authors out there, and the not-that-large pool of available reviewers but the interesting part was who the offer came from: a former atheist, now Catholic blogger.

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I should explain. ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and the sequel ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again!’ are satire novels where religious icons travel to Earth to convince us to stop destroying our world. In the first book the only person who is able to help God is an atheist and in the sequel, Jesus treads God’s well worth path making somewhat of a fool of himself along the way. Now, these clearly make fun of the various religions and of the iconography of Christianity, and I have a lot of fun lampooning what God is, who my version of Jesus is, the role of the Heavenly Bureaucracy and The Committee, a group of angels who are now in control and so on and so forth and you can find an example of the sort of humour that this book contains below.

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But these books are definitely not aimed at a religious audience. Despite that I have always wondered what someone of that persuasion would make of them and so, naturally, lots of questions start swirling around my brain. Do they really want to review my book, a satirical poke in the eye for religion, and if they do how come? I mean, it’s light-hearted fun and I certainly haven’t set out to offend anyone but I’m still left with the question of why would they want to do this? Well, they say that all publicity is good publicity but I was still confronted with the choice of whether I should I do this, do I send a review copy to someone who may, in all likelihood, give me a very bad review indeed. They could always just buy the book but in the end I did send them a free copy.

 

Either way, it draws attention, right, even if the opinion given is not a good one. And if the review is very poor indeed I shall still tweet excerpts from it in the same way that I do with the good reviews that I have received (like the one below). I will simply ensure that the tweet contains the words ‘Catholic blogger’ and then my atheist followers will know that the review may be somewhat biased. If he says that the book is a piece of atheist trash, that’d work for them, right? At least I hope it will. Still, I can’t help wondering whether I have made a mistake in engaging with this person.

 

Now all I can do is wait and see what they make of it and what it is that they say in their review. And wonder, as we indie authors endlessly do, if this is one of the things that helps to pull in the publicity that launches the book to a bigger audience. Here’s hoping, even if takes the outrage of the religious to help move things along. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

My review of the excellent ‘Logan’…

I have been a fan of the X-Men movies since I saw Brian Singer’s X-Men and then the sequel twice each in the cinema, something I rarely do. I have watched each of the subsequent movies, with the exception of Apocalypse which I skipped due to the poor reviews, and for the most part I have enjoyed them all. Well, Wolverine: Origins is terrible, as is The Last Stand, and my favourites are X2, which I still think is a tremendously entertaining movie, and First Class which is directed by Matthew Vaughn who is one of my favourite directors (more here: https://tinyurl.com/gturgyw). As with my previous movie reviews, I will be talking full spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens please go and see the movie before reading any further. Seriously, I will tell you what happens, so go see it if you don’t want it spoiled!

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The first thing that should be said about Logan is that it is not your typical movie about superheroes or mutants. I’m not sure I would even put it in either of those categories. It’s part western, part action thriller, but it is mostly a film where our protagonists are on the run. It’s a movie about a lot of things and it actually has something to say about these things yet I think you could make this movie with ordinary humans and it would still work. It’s a film about how difficult it is living with someone who has a degenerative illness and about how the relationships of those who care for them change. It’s a movie about the hardship of life and of living with the consequences of your actions. And it also talks about  the brutality of both corporate culture and our obsession with war and finding more and more brutal ways to kill each other. Finally, it is about how hard it is getting old and sick and eventually dying.

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Several aspects of the film really stood out to me as excellent choices by the director, cast and writers. Allowing the characters to swear made more of a difference than I would’ve thought. It makes them feel like real people who deal with the shit life throws at you in the same way we do; with profanity. Keeping in the blood that was cut out of The Wolverine, but then returned for the Directors Cut, was also a smart move. Logan is someone who, as with Laura, stabs and maims a great many people so of course there should be blood. And the makers of this movie have clearly learned from the success of Deadpool in making both an adult and a very entertaining movie and choosing not to shy away from mature content. Without these elements I think Logan would fall very flat indeed as just another superhero movie and I am so glad that it is not that.

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The performances are also all excellent, with special mention for the newcomer Daphne Keen, who plays Logan’s daughter with an impressive ferocity, and on maintaining her silence until the last third. But Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant were also superb and each brought something to the production. If I have a criticism it is that the villains, in the form of Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant, aren’t really given enough to do but stand there and look menacing. And they do their best, but it seems a failing of almost all of the recent superhero and comic book movies that the villains aren’t developed enough for us to care about them. And of course both Charles Xavier and Logan have to die during the course of the movie because it is both necessary and this is exactly the movie in which that occurs. I found myself welling up at both of these moments and I did not expect a film about a mutant who mostly stabs people to do that, so all credit to it.

 

Logan is an excellent movie, truly it is, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it. My wife commented after the viewing that she hadn’t even felt the time passing and that she wouldn’t have minded if it ran another hour. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it did certainly zip along. Usually we prefer films to be as short and concise as they can be, but when it is done as well as this one then we really don’t mind. If you have any interest in Logan I thoroughly recommend that you see it in the cinema, and drag along your friends and family, to both support its creation but also to just enjoy something that is different and just so damned good! Go, go see it now!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of the superb comic book series ‘Scalped’ by Jason Aaron & RM Guera…

So, in case it wasn’t clear from my previous blog posts (here: https://tinyurl.com/jycgyy5, here:  https://tinyurl.com/zehax5n and here: https://tinyurl.com/guehn9a), I am a massive fan of comics. I have been reading, buying and collecting them in one form or other for more than a decade and so I have gotten through a large number of series during that time. These days I mostly favour the creator owned series put out by the companies that support their writers and artists and the series that they produce and Image, IDW, and Dark Horse comics are particularly good at this. I’m also increasing going digital with my new purchases but my one remaining weakness is for series that I love that are released in beautiful hardcover volumes. Things like Saga, The Unwritten and, now, Scalped. Back when I had access to an excellent library that had a considerable graphic novels collection this was a series that I read a trade or two of and enjoyed but the release of the deluxe editions was enough to convince me to give it another go. Now it has become one of my favourites and one that I would heartily recommend that you try.

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Scalped is written by Jason Aaron (whose current run on Thor is one of my favourite Marvel comics) with art principally from RM Guéra and tells the tale of Dashiell “Dash” Bad Horse, a native American who is pulled back to the Reservation, or ‘Rez’, that he came from by the will of a federal agent who wants his help to bring down the tribal leader, Lincoln Red Crow. From here we follow as Dash is brought into Red Crow’s organisation and becomes a serious badass, as well as increasingly messed up. This series runs for 60 issues (why are so many great comics runs about this length? Ex Machina, Y:The Last Man, The Unwritten, Chew and many others) as we follow Dash’s attempts to bring down his boss, solve the murder of his mother in current day, and discover who killed two federal agents some years ago.

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Reading the entire run through, one issue in particular stuck out for me and that was number 35. This done-in-one issue tells the tale of an elderly couple living on the Rez who are struggling to survive through the winter. The story doesn’t directly relate to the ongoing series and can be read as a stand-alone but it really hits home hard and is quite wonderful. To me, it seemed to encapsulate the point of Scalped in showing you how hard the lives of these people are and how close to desperation they remain. Of course, the entire run is excellent, but this issue was truly wonderful.

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Scalped is superb, brutal, adult comics that has, by the end of the run, built up a considerable body count. A comparison could be made between this series and Breaking Bad, which is high praise indeed, but it is also a comparison that I think is fair and I would thoroughly recommend Scalped to anyone who enjoys comics, noir fiction or just damned good storytelling. Oh, and the art is superb too with a brutal realism that suits the series perfectly. Scalped must rank up there among the best comics of the past decade, yes it really is that good, and with it now collected in beautiful, deluxe hardcover editions there really is no excuse not to give it a go. So go out and find it! Cheers.

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars story’…

‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars (SW)’ movie that I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Seriously, it is. Back then my mother, brother and I had a routine of enjoying the original movies (yes, even the one with the Ewoks. Hey, I was a kid!) every Friday evening and so obviously we were fans. I saw and enjoyed ‘The Force Awakens’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/h4j3lng) when it was released last December but I felt that was a rehash of the classic 1977 movie redone for a modern audience and, though I have absolutely no problem with that, it wasn’t quite enough for me. That movie is fun and it zips along but, in the opinion of this reviewer, ‘Rogue One’ is easily the best SW movie since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It might even be the best one altogether! It’s an absolutely brilliant, genuine SW movie that features pretty much everything I want this kind of film to contain. Before I go any further, as with my previous reviews, there will be spoilers so if you want to see it unspoiled go and do so before reading on…

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As I said, this movie has everything I wanted: character arcs with actual growth, epic space battles, sacrifice in the name of a greater cause, all that good stuff! Sure, the plot is quite simple (we must get the plans for the Death Star at all costs!) but it works and we all know that they succeed, for the first Star Wars movie depends upon it, but what matters is the cost of succeeding (which one’s were the Bothans, by the way?). Jynn is a decent protagonist, the journey she goes on is completely appropriate for the subject matter, and the crew that she assembles are also enjoyable (especially the sarcastic droid, who’s jokes land well). The battle sequences are some of the best I can remember seeing in any movie of this kind, and the ending is suitably brutal (did anyone actually have a problem with it, cause I sure as hell didn’t). The only thing that even slightly bothered me was the inclusion of a digitally-resurrected Peter Cushing (could they not have just written him out and someone else in?) but that was a minor niggle in an otherwise impressive experience.

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Unlike in the prequels or in ‘The Force Awakens’ where they seemed in such a rush to keep moving forward that they barely had time to breath, the actors have actually been given the space to act. Actually, I think the three principle actors in ‘The Force Awakens’ did a commendable job with the space that they had but those in ‘Rogue One’ have much more to do and more room in which to do it. And what a ride Gareth Edwards, the director, has been on! My wife and I have been fans of the Kermode and Mayo movie review show for many years and I remember his interview for his debut movie, ‘Monsters’, some time ago. That was a very enjoyable character piece that features very few actual monsters (but when they do appear they are stunning!) but it did showcase the directors talents and it was obviously seen by the right people. Then Kermode and Mayo had him back on for Godzilla, a movie that I very much enjoyed both times I watched it, and now he has directed what I consider to be the finest ‘Star Wars’ movie since Empire. Blimey, that’s some career trajectory!

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I heartily recommend that you see ‘Rogue One’ in the cinema, it’s a wonderful experience and it deserves to be seen this way. I look forward to revisiting it when it is out on home release but I am so glad I dragged myself to the pictures to see it. I loved ‘Rogue One’ much more than any of the other SW movies in the past few decades. Now, however, I do hope that we get to see something new in this universe, something different that isn’t a rehash or a prequel but instead moves the series forward from what it has always been towards the new stories it is now (hopefully) going to tell. And with directors as good as Gareth Edwards and J.J. Abrahms I have high hopes indeed! Can’t wait!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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